McClaren sacked as Newcastle boss

 Posted by at 7:09 PM
Mar 112016

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How Steve McClaren’s Newcastle reign went wrong

Newcastle United have sacked head coach Steve McClaren.

The former England boss won just six of 28 Premier League games in charge of the Magpies, who are just one place off the foot of the table.

McClaren and his team were booed off following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Bournemouth at St James’ Park – their third successive league defeat.

Former Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss Rafael Benitez has been tipped to take over.

McClaren’s future has been a source of almost constant speculation since the defeat to the Cherries.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “Newcastle have finally put Steve McClaren out of his misery.

“The running of that great football club is beyond shambolic.”

Ian Dennis, BBC Radio 5 live’s senior football reporter, said Benitez had been identified as a replacement for McClaren at a board meeting on Monday.

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Steve McClaren sacked by Newcastle United

“Rafa in the driving seat to replace McClaren,” tweeted former Magpies striker Michael Owen. “Whoever takes over, I still expect Newcastle to stay up.”

McClaren, 54, signed a three-year contract with the Magpies in June after the club avoided relegation on the final day of last season.

Newcastle’s next game is at leaders Leicester City on Monday.

Club statement

“After the defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday, the club has spent some time considering its position and has today concluded that Steve McClaren’s employment with the club will end with immediate effect.

“We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise.

“However, we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.

“Managing director Lee Charnley added: ‘I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United.

“‘He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time.

“‘Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United.

“‘He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks.

“‘We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future. A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course.'”


Former Newcastle defender Steve Howey agreed with Lineker that the club’s handling of McClaren’s sacking had been “pretty shambolic”.

He added: “That seems to sum Newcastle up at the moment.

“Everyone thought after the defeat by Bournemouth there would be discussions straight after the game with the board – which Steve is on – and a decision could be made before the new week started.

“It dragged on and, to be fair to Steve, he’s shown superb professionalism. He’s carried on knowing all along that he was going to be leaving.”


BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty:

Steve McClaren was an uninspired, seemingly safe, appointment by Newcastle United after they escaped relegation from the Premier League on the final day of last season.

Dismissed by Derby County after they failed to reach the Championship play-off despite strong financial backing, McClaren arrived as damaged goods.

He was fortunate to get the job and it proved comprehensively beyond his capabilities, despite an £80m expenditure since the summer, resulting in just six wins and a place in the relegation zone.

But how much influence McClaren had over transfer policy? Chief scout Graham Carr appears to wield the power, but McClaren has taken responsibility.

This unwieldy system must be scrapped and the manager must be allowed to manage, otherwise Newcastle will never escape the shadow hanging permanently over this giant of a club.

Newcastle’s recent form

McClaren spent about £80m on players during his time at St James’ Park, including £30m on midfielders Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Henri Saivet in January.

However, the signings have failed to help improve the club’s form and they have won just one of their past six league games, conceding 14 goals in defeats by Watford, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Bournemouth.

As well as Newcastle, Derby and England, McClaren has managed Middlesbrough, Dutch side FC Twente and Wolfsburg in Germany.

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Mar 112016
Liverpool and Manchester United met for the first time in European competition

Manchester United fans’ chants regarding the Hillsborough disaster were “dreadful”, says former Liverpool midfielder Ray Houghton.

Offensive songs were heard during Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Anfield in the Europa League last 16 first leg.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at Hillsborough in an FA Cup semi-final between the Reds and Nottingham Forest in 1989.

“It has to come out of our game,” Houghton told BBC Radio 5 live.

“There were people in the crowd who lost loved ones at Hillsborough and that’s really hard to take.

“It’s something we don’t want to hear. It’s happened in the past with Liverpool fans to Manchester United with what happened at Munich. It’s uncalled for.”

In February 1958 eight United players and three club officials lost their lives in a plane crash in Munich following a European Cup tie.

“When you lower yourself to that level [of those fans], it’s quite remarkable,” added Houghton.

“It should have been a night of celebration – they haven’t played each other in a European tie before. The fans should have been getting behind their own team. When you stoop as low as they did last night, for me, it’s dreadful.”

A story in the Sun newspaper four days after the Hillsborough disaster criticised Liverpool fans’ behaviour at the time. The newspaper is still heavily boycotted in Merseyside as a result.

“There were chants during the first half – ‘the Sun was right’, referring to the Hillsborough tragedy,” said BBC Sport’s Juliette Ferrington, who was at Anfield.

“It wasn’t continuous but it was clearly audible, maybe four or five times. It kind of got drowned out. The noise at the game was deafening.

“It happened again just after the full-time whistle – it was drowned out by: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘we won it five times’ (a reference to Liverpool’s five European Cup triumphs). There was lots of saddened head-shaking in the press-box.”

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Mar 112016
Manchester United have lost their past three away games in Europe.

Manchester United were “shambolic” and had no plan during their 2-0 Europa League defeat at Liverpool, says former midfielder Paul Scholes.

Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino scored, with only keeper David de Gea preventing a heavier first-leg loss.

United had just one shot on target in the last-16 tie, and Scholes told BT Sport: “They have certain standards and they have fallen well short.

“Liverpool had a way of playing. United didn’t have a clue.”

The second leg takes place at Old Trafford next Thursday (20:05 GMT).

Louis van Gaal’s side are sixth in the Premier League, three points off the top four, as they chase Champions League qualification for next season and face fifth-placed West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

They dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in a Champions League group that also included Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow.

“Manchester United should be competing to win the Premier League and Champions League every season,” said Scholes, who made 718 appearances for the club.

“They have spent £300m and they are sixth in the league. They have ended up in the Europa League after failing in a poor Champions League group. They should be competing with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

“I hope none of the players comes out saying sorry on Twitter. Stop talking on social media and start playing.

“The last thing I want for Manchester United is to be happy with finishing fourth and winning the FA Cup. That’s what Arsenal do.”

‘We couldn’t cope with Liverpool pressure’

Louis van Gaal felt Jordan Henderson was in an offside position in the build-up to Liverpool’s second goal

United had won their four previous games against Liverpool under Van Gaal but rarely looked like beating them on Thursday.

The Dutchman felt the goals his side conceded were “cheap” but accepted they could not handle Liverpool’s pressing game.

“It was a surprise that we did not cope with it,” he said.

“In the second half we tried to press like Liverpool. They had difficulties but we did not create too many chances.”

‘The atmosphere was unbelievable’

Jurgen Klopp could yet face his former club Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp praised the “electric” Anfield atmosphere after his side beat United for the first time in two years.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable, really great. I want to say thank you to everyone that was involved,” said the German.

“That was Liverpool how I knew it before I came here.

“No matter how you play against Manchester United, it is always difficult to make chances. We could have scored more goals in the first half, but that’s life.

“Scoring the second goal was very important. We know it is only the first leg but we needed to win it and we did. We are in a good position now.”

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Mar 112016
Tottenham conceded three goals in a game for the first time this season

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has “no regrets” about making seven changes to his side, despite a 3-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.

Pochettino, whose side are also trying to win the Premier League title, named striker Harry Kane as a substitute.

“I am very disappointed with the result. It was a bad day in the office but we need to accept that,” he said.

“We picked the starting XI to try and win the game.”

A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang header and two Marco Reus goals left Spurs on the brink of elimination before the return leg at White Hart Lane on 17 March.

Harry Kane came on as a late substitute for Tottenham as Mauricio Pochettino opted to rest some of his key players

Through the good times and the bad

Tottenham have not won for three matches, their loss in Germany following a 1-0 defeat at West Ham and a 2-2 draw with Arsenal.

They travel to Premier League bottom club Aston Villa on Sunday looking to close the gap on leaders Leicester, who are five points clear at the top.

“I am not worried, I know the circumstances,” Pochettino added.

“We need to accept some periods during 10 months that we will have good and bad times.

“We have always had things good, it has only been in the last few games not so much. The players are very sad but we have to take the positives.”

Dortmund are unbeaten in 2016 and were in control throughout Thursday’s game as Tottenham struggled to cope with the German side’s swift and incisive attack.

Despite the defeat, Pochettino is confident his players will benefit from the experience.

“We were disappointed, but it was a very good test for us to compare to their level,” he said.

“It was good for us to feel what a game in the Champions League feels like.”

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Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

 Posted by at 5:53 AM
Mar 112016
Daniel Sturridge converted from the spot for his sixth goal of the season

Liverpool took control of their Europa League last-16 tie as they swept aside a desperately poor Manchester United at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side dominated this first European meeting between the two Premier League giants in a thunderous atmosphere – and the German manager’s only disappointment will be that the tie is not already settled.

Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool a 15th-minute lead from the spot after Memphis Depay fouled Nathaniel Clyne and Roberto Firmino added a second from close range with 17 minutes left.

United did not create a single chance and only the brilliance of goalkeeper David de Gea has kept Liverpool in range as he produced a succession of magnificent saves.

De Gea spares United humiliation

Liverpool have the destiny of this tie in their own hands now – and Manchester United fans might have been trying to offload their tickets for next week’s second leg if it was not for the outstanding De Gea.

The Spain international was world-class and it was only his constant interventions that kept Liverpool’s lead anywhere near manageable for Louis van Gaal’s side.

De Gea saved superbly at the far post from Coutinho in the first half when many would have given up and showed brilliant athleticism to keep out the Brazilian in front of The Kop in the second half.

He also blocked Sturridge when Chris Smalling missed a simple defensive header in Liverpool’s opening surge and demonstrated his reflexes to stop Adam Lallana, as well as punching away Nathaniel Clyne’s powerful drive after the break.

In other words, the only reason United have any interest in that second game at Old Trafford is because of De Gea – and if they somehow pull this around it will be down to this virtuoso display.

David de Gea made a string of excellent saves in a first half dominated by Liverpool

Second-class European clash?

The fact two of the Premier League’s superpowers had their first meeting on this stage in the Europa League is an indicator of the fact they have fallen out of the elite group contesting the Champions League.

But was this a second-class atmosphere in a second-class competition? Not a chance.

Anfield was crackling two hours before kick-off and The Kop’s version of You’ll Never Walk Alone evoked memories of Champions League semi-finals rather than this stage of Europe’s second-tier tournament.

The prize of a place in next season’s Champions League for the Europa League winners is a massive incentive – but so was the old rivalry between two clubs who argue over their respective European pedigrees.

Liverpool’s fans revelled in the manner in which they over-ran the old enemy and red smoke from a flare swirled around a cacophonous Anfield after Firmino scored their second.

It may not be the competition these two clubs want to be in – but as Liverpool fans celebrated at the final whistle that complaint will have fallen on deaf ears.

United’s fans will need to create a similar environment next week if they are to have any chance of reaching the last eight.

Shambolic Manchester United

This was an opportunity for United to show there is some life left in Van Gaal’s regime – but they were a tactical shambles and off the pace all over the pitch, De Gea apart.

Anthony Martial got no service worthy of the name and sympathy goes to teenager Marcus Rashford, dumped in an unfamiliar position on the right flank and removed at half-time when Van Gaal introduced Michael Carrick and went to three at the back.

And the symbol of all United’s struggles was the hopeless figure of Marouane Fellaini, taunted for his Everton connections and fortunate to stay on the pitch after being a consistent offender all night, even ending the game by appearing to lay out Emre Can in an aerial challenge.

United were dismal – the only consolation being that despite this harrowing night, they still have a semblance of a chance in the second leg.

German Klopp has never won a European trophy, but led Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League final in 2013

In contrast, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool showed signs of becoming exactly what he wants them to be at Anfield.

The Reds simply pressurised United into submission, much to the delight of the manager who was an advocate of the high-intensity “Gegenpressing” system with former club Borussia Dortmund.

They gave United no time on the ball, constantly robbing them in possession and forcing mistakes by being simply too quick and too mobile for Van Gaal’s side.

Man of the match: David de Gea (Manchester United)

David de Gea produced key stops to deny Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge – ensuring his side still have a fighting chance of reaching the last eight

The stats you need to know

  • Manchester United have not won any of their past six away games in the knockout stages of European competition, losing five.
  • United have kept just one clean sheet in their past 10 trips to Anfield in all competitions.
  • Daniel Sturridge has scored five goals and assisted one in his past seven games against United in all competitions.
  • United faced eight shots on target against Liverpool, the joint-most they have had to defend in a single game this season.
  • Roberto Firmino has scored in three consecutive games for Liverpool for the first time.

What’s next for both sides?

Liverpool’s next match is the second leg at Old Trafford on Thursday, 17 March, while Manchester United host West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

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